DETROIT – Not many years ago, the concept of a three-cylinder-powered car was unimaginable.
First, three cylinders indicated small, and small indicated cheap. But that is being upended by several automakers, most assertively by Chevrolet with its new Trailblazer.
Our test vehicle was powered by a 1.3-liter turbocharged inline three-cylinder engine that made 155 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.
A continuously variable transmission is available, so is a turbocharged 1.2-liter inline three-cylinder that makes 137 horsepower. That is a lot of developmental muscle that has gone into these three cylinders and it suggests that these engines are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Our test car had an EPA fuel rating of 26 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. That was for our all-wheel-drive model. Of course, it was better for the front-wheel-drive version.
And even though the Trailblazer was powered by a three-cylinder engine by no means was it a putt-putt sort of a vehicle. Looking at it, there is no way to tell that it is a three-cylinder vehicle.
Most importantly, there was nothing lacking in terms of performance — it moved with authority. Of course, there wasn’t a growling engine, but it got us where we needed to go like lane changes and prompt acceleration.
The 2021 Trailblazer interior was an interesting mix of texture and color and technology.
The colors of our test vehicle were jet black and almond butter. The leatherette seat coverings did not look cheap. The infotainment touchscreen was embedded in the face of the dash and framed with all the controls. We call it a control pod. Beneath it were the climate controls.
Under that were the USB jacks and the auxiliary and 12V plug. The Trailblazer was chock-full of creature comforts. The technology package had wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There was wireless charging and adaptive cruise control.
The instruments were analog with a TFT screen in the middle.
This Trailblazer was an easy driving vehicle. The sitting position was high enough for good sightlines and the vehicle was big enough so that it wasn’t swallowed by the size of other vehicles.
We thought it significant that it could tow 1,000 lbs. with its three-cylinder engine and there were roof rails.
The back seats were spacious. There was plenty of headroom and legroom. The tunnel was not that pronounced. Three people, though cramped, could get in the back seat.
However, that is also where Chevrolet decided to cut costs. Those back sits were firm, just shy of being hard. And the door panels lacked the texture of the front door panels as well as the color too.
There were two more USB jacks at the base of the center console in the back, along with a grounded 120V plug. One feature that we did note: The Trailblazer would remind us to check the back seat every time we turned it off.
The safety equipment included automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, lane-keeping assist, forward collision alert, automatic high beams, tire pressure monitoring, a teen driver system and a following distance indicator.
The technical package included LED headlights, a premium audio system and, of course, a rearview camera. It’s the law.
We had satellite radio, A & C chargers on the USB plugs, heated front seats, rear cross-traffic alert. Other than a moon or panoramic roof, we do not know if we could have asked anything else.
Keyless entry and start-stop were also part of the package. For $31,225 as tested, the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer was chock-full of equipment at a decent price.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.